“Art in care is perceived by some care setting staff as an activity that can develop links with the broader community, promote social relationships, including intergenerational connections, and support greater social connections. It can also lead to personal development for participants.” – Dr Bernard McDonald.
Today, we published research on our Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative which was authored by independent research and training consultant Dr Bernard McDonald. The initiative demonstrates and celebrates the positive impact of ageing creatively.
“Art making is not primarily about teaching older people artistic techniques and skills, or facilitating the development of these skills, but is focused at its core on personal development and self-expression,” Dr Bernard McDonald said.
Engagement in choral work or visual arts projects can enhance participants’ sense of control and connectedness, and promote the development of social links and relations. Many cultural activities such as dance also promote physical activity. The self-reflection and emotional engagement inherent in art processes such as singing or the creation of physical art works can enhance self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Art practices provide many opportunities to learn new skills and competencies, which have a positive impact on self-esteem and wellbeing.
The research examines the capacity of care settings in Ireland to interact with the arts and it also considers how to embed the arts in the culture of care settings more generally.
Older people also recognise the mental health benefits associated with engaging with the arts, with comments like ‘it takes me out of myself’, ‘it keeps my brain active and my fingers nimble’, and ‘it boosts my self-esteem’.
Many older people in care settings around Ireland are emerging out of a severely traumatising lockdown period, while others are suffering the loss of day services which have had to be suspended. We know from research that the arts can have a profound influence on the quality of life of older people, with positive impacts on health, psychological well-being, confidence and autonomy. Residents of care settings around Ireland need access to the restorative and imaginative capacity of the arts and creativity, as well as the connection to the community that this can bring.